Celebrating 50 Years of the Wyndham
David T Chase & his wife Rhoda Chase
The Wyndham Deerfield Beach, previously known as the Howard Johnson has been built and owned by the Chase family for the past 50 years. Chase Enterprises is a family which has been involved in real estate,
telecommunications, hotels, insurance, banks, TV stations, Cable company and others. Chase Enterprises now mainly owns and operates commercial buildings, office buildings and Marinas.
At the heart of the story behind 50 years of the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort is a family business started by David Chase, a Polish immigrant and Holocaust survivor. He partnered with one of America’s most iconic hospitality brands, Howard Johnson’s. The hotel has been at the center of tourism and recreation in Deerfield Beach for five decades, with the Chase family very much behind it today.I had the opportunity to interview Cheryl Chase and Landon Chase, daughter and grandson of David and Rhoda Chase, in a conference room along with general manager Claude Dubois. The Chase’s live full-time in Connecticut but are very active with this property and it is currently the only hotel in their business holdings.
I had the opportunity to interview Cheryl Chase and Landon Chase, daughter and grandson of David and Rhoda Chase, in a conference room along with general manager Claude Dubois. The Chase’s live full-time in Connecticut but are very active with this property and it is currently the only
The family story gets very interesting, very quickly.David Chase survived the Holocaust, having endured imprisonment at the Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen and Mauthausen concentration camps. David and his sister lost their parents, younger sister and many other family members. After the war, he emigrated from Europe to Connecticut, where hefinished high school, started college and quickly met his wife, Rhoda, whom David credited for having the most influence on his life.David was the quintessential entrepreneur, looking for business opportunities that many Americans may not notice — such as garages. After the war, Americans bought new cars, but many of the houses of the day did not include garages. David saw this opportunity and got to work learning how to construct them.
David Chase grew his business to include office buildings, shopping centers, department stores and over 50 hotels.
A penniless immigrant amassed a significant portfolio of assets — because he was trustworthy When banks, clients and investors trusted David Chase, they were rewarded with success.
A builder in Miami told David about a parcel in a sleepy, beachside town near a fishing pier in northern Broward County. David bought the land and hired the builder to construct a hotel.
The Chases selected the Howard Johnson brand and system for the hotel.It is difficult to overstate how dominant the Howard Johnson brand was at that time or to exaggerate its fall from the top as a national restaurant and motel operation.
In 1925, Howard D. Johnson started with a small ice cream shop in Quincy, Massachusetts.With almost 1,000 locations in the 1970s, the chain was the most popular restaurant brand in the United States for many years. The restaurant was particularly popular with travelers because it could be trusted no matter where you were. This success prompted the brand to expand into motor lodges where guests customarily enter their room directly from their car.
The Chase’s choice to partner with Howard Johnson for an eight-story, beachfront hotel was very unusual for the chain, but the combination turned out to be a success.
By 2000, most of Howard Johnson’s restaurants were closed and currently, only one restaurant location is functioning near Lake George, New York.
The motor lodges were divested from the restaurant brand in the 1990s and passed through a few ownership changes. Coincidently, the remaining 300 properties are now owned by Wyndham, which markets them as “Howard Johnson by Wyndham”.
Julien Felder was the general manager of the property for 27 years. Again, in my view of the universe, hotel managers in South Florida do not last 27 months at one property let alone 27 years.
After earning a college degree in business administration, finance and accounting, he expected to work at an accounting firm, but happened to see a newspaper notice for a job in the accounting department of a hotel chain. He was soon the controller for seven hotels, and his long career in the business was launched. Through those years, Felder was fortunate to work for a franchise business, owned and operated by a family he liked.
He went to work for a man named David Chase, who had franchise arrangements to operate hotels under the Howard Johnson brand. After working up north, Felder was named general manager of the Howard Johnson hotel on Deerfield Beach in 1988. The hotel had first opened in 1971 as a Howard Johnson on a previously empty lot.
Claude Dubois took over from Felder in December 2017 in the middle of a renovation caused by Hurricane Irma. Dubois has an extensive background in luxury hotels around the world with the Taj Group of Hotels, having worked in London, U.K., Dubai, U.A.E. and Boston, U.S.
Since he started at the property, the focus has been to bring the “luxury service to the property” by enhancing the guest experience, great attention to detail, and ultimately bringing the property to a higher level of service.
Under Dubois’ initiative, the property has also gone green and the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort was the first Wyndham Hotel to achieve the highest level of Green Certification amongst 9,200 properties.
The work has paid off. Since Dubois took over, the property has won five awards. The property was recognized as the Best Wyndham Hotel worldwide and best upscale property worldwide within the Wyndham Groups of Hotels and Resorts.
It is not a small achievement. The Wyndham brand has built hotels around the world, including in Asia and the Middle East.
The Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort actively supports the local community by participating in events such as Back to School and Santa on the Beach events.
By 2000, the hotel showed signs of aging. Consumer preferences had changed, and an upgrade was needed. What the building got was more than an upgrade;
it was completely gutted and rebuilt. For all practical purposes, the new Howard Johnson Hotel was entirely new.
In 2010, a new franchise came along with the reconstructed hotel under the Wyndham brand. The hotel was then advertised as the Wyndham Deerfield Beach Resort, as it is called today.
The reconstruction of the hotel might have been the greatest challenge in Felder’s career as general manager.
It was such a successful transition, however, that the hotel was recently named the “Best Franchised Wyndham Hotel in North America” by the Wyndham Hotel Group, beating nearly 200 franchised hotels that bear the Wyndham name. Although David Chase died in 2016, his children, Cheryl and Arnold, have maintained the business as a family-run enterprise.
Earning this prestigious Wyndham designation is just one of many recognitions Felder won over the years for his effective leadership and hospitable mood. In 1999, he was named “Manager of the Year” of the Howard Johnson hotels in Florida, and in 2004 as “Manager of the Year” among the 450 managers of Howard Johnson hotels.
Attention to detail is important for all businesses, so the Chase’s set about to offer a better ice cream experience. After many years of experience selling ice cream on the beach, they sought an authentic Gelato, so they tasted the options available in the area. They selected a local, immigrant family to partner with to offer gelato at the hotel.
“I didn’t want another Hojo’s ice cream fiasco,” Chery Chase recounted. “My dad actually refused to sell Howard Johnson’s ice cream.” Her grandson, in photograph, seems to like this family tradition.
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